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9 religious companies (besides Chick-fil-A)
July 24th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

9 religious companies (besides Chick-fil-A)

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

As the controversy over Chick-fil-A’s founder publicly opposing same-sex marriage continues - Mike Huckabee is pushing for a Chick-fil-A day, while the Jim Henson Co. is cutting ties to the chain - we’re republishing our list of 10 other religious companies.

Our initial list was provoked by an earlier Chick-fil-A/same-sex marriage controversy. Is our list missing any names? Tweet us at @CNNBelief to let us know.

Here are 10 well-known companies that don't make religious products - we're not talking kosher foods manufacturer Manischewitz here - but that nonetheless take their religious sides seriously (listed in no particular order).

1. Forever 21. The young women’s clothing company may be best known for its skimpier and saucier offerings, but it also exudes subtle piety. The words John 3:16 – a citation of a biblical verse popular among evangelical Christians - appears at the bottom of its stores' shopping bags. A spokeswoman for the company told The New York Sun that the message is a "demonstration of the owners' faith."

2. Tom’s of Maine. After launching the natural home products company in 1970 with his wife Kate, CEO Tom Chappell nearly left it to pursue full-time Christian ministry. While receiving a master's at Harvard Divinity School, however, a professor advised him to just treat his business as ministry. “He began bringing in different spiritual leaders to talk to the board about how they could use spiritual principles to run the company,” says the Tyson Center's Neal. Beyond environmentalism, the company seeks to "create a better world by exchanging our faith, experience, and hope."

3. Tyson Foods, Inc. The world's largest chicken company employs a team of chaplains who minister to employees at production facilities and corporate offices. Other corporations contract out such services, but it’s rare for a company to keep chaplains on the payroll.

"The chaplains provide compassionate pastoral care and ministry to team members and their families," according to Tyson's website, "regardless of their religious or spiritual affiliation or beliefs."

Tyson recently gave money to launch the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace at the University of Arkansas, one of the first academic centers of its kind.

4. Hobby Lobby. The privately held chain of more than 450 arts and crafts stories isn't shy about its Christian orientation. "Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles," reads the company's mission statement. "We believe that it is by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured."

The company supports a slate of Christian interests, from Oral Roberts University to the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, and is known for taking out overtly religious newspaper ads around the holidays.

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5. ServiceMaster. Never heard of this corporation? Perhaps some of the residential services companies it owns, like Terminix and American Home Shield, will ring a bell.

The company was founded in 1929 by Marion E. Wade, who "had a strong personal faith and a desire to honor God in all he did," according to ServiceMaster's website. "Translating this into the marketplace, he viewed each individual employee and customer as being made in God's image - worthy of dignity and respect."

The company, formerly public but recently taken over by a private equity firm, still consciously tries to "do the right thing in the way that employees treat customers," says Theodore Malloch, who leads Yale University's Spiritual Capital Initiative. "It's a theological statement about servant leadership - think of the picture of Christ washing the feet of his disciples."

6. Herman Miller. The Michigan-based furniture manufacturer's founders were steeped in the Reformed Protestant tradition. "It retains a lot of that in practices that revolve around a notion of respecting the dignity of the human person and a strong environmental ethic that grew out of the religious responsibility," says Yale's Malloch. Indeed, Herman Miller - perhaps most famous for its Aeron chair - prides itself on environmental philanthropy and on regularly appearing on Fortune's annual list of best companies to work for.

7. Interstate Batteries. The car battery giant has a "self-avowed religious identity and is very open in their God talk" in internal training and communication, says Lake Lambert III, author of Spirituality, Inc. Former company president Norm Miller moved to the role of chairman to allow more time to address Christian audiences. Miller talks to those "interested in how he found the truth of Christianity," the company's website says, "and how he learned to effectively apply biblical principles to create a more successful business." Interstate employs its own chaplain.

8. In-N-Out Burger. Chick-fil-A is hardly the only fast-food outfit to make its founders' religious leanings part of its recipe. Western U.S. burger chain In-N-Out has printed citations of Bible passages on cups, wrappers and other pieces of packaging since at least the late 1980s. For instance, "John 3:16" appears on the bottom of soft drink cups, a reference to the Bible passage, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Read more on In-N-Out's religious side at Eatocracy, CNN's food blog.

9. Walmart. Treat this one as an honorable mention. Lambert says the Walton family, which founded the company and still own a major stake in it, has used Christian servant leadership models in building the world's largest retailer. And the company's Arkansas roots helped sensitize it to the shopping habits of churchgoers. It helps explain why Walmart long carries the kind of Christian books that were once the exclusive province of Christian bookstores. "You don’t find those kinds of things in J.C. Penney," Lambert says. But Walmart has been so successful with such material that it's now become a business threat to Christian booksellers.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey is a Buddhist. Whole Foods Global Public Relations Director Kate Lowery says that Mackey has never been a Buddhist. “John does not fit into any traditional religious category,” she said in an e-mail message.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Missionaries

soundoff (2,481 Responses)
  1. Joe

    Doesn't make a difference to me one way or the other. I'm not Christian...I don't believe in god.....I don't have a problem with gay marriage. But I like Chick Fil A, and i will continue to buy their delicious chicken sandwiches. When I go to the supermarket, if Tyson chicken is the cheapest that day, I will buy it. I've used Terminex in the past and they've done a good job, so I will use them in the future.
    I imagine many of you people here who claim to boycott the company will look down your stuck up noses at me for this, but I wonder how many of you research ALL of the products you buy to see the dealings of their parent corporation. I'm sure a small (probably very small) number of you do, and I'm sure a larger number will claim you do, but the reality of the situation is that the majority of you don't.
    Yes, it's nice when you see an article like this to get up in arms about it and insist that you will take your business elsewhere. But what about the company where you do take your business? Are they clean? Very few (if any) corporations are innocent of misdealings, many of which are far, far worse than supporting Christian groups. But most of these actions aren't reported in the media, or if they are, they're buried under a hundred other stories and don't grab very many people's attention. Not to mention the fact that if you were so socially responsible, you would be doing your research into the companies you give your money to, rather than waiting for a news organization to report it.
    In a perfect world, we would have this information and only support the "good" companies. But in our capitalist nation, this isn't the case. We get what we want and what is least expensive, without doing much digging into how it got to us.
    So go ahead, ride your high horse....fool yourself into thinking you're doing something for the greater good. But before you start letting your head get filled with too many ideas of how wonderful you are, take a look around your house....look at that computer or refrigerator you own. Look at the car you drive or the cell phone you use. While you're at it, don't forget the little stuff–the pen you write with or the soap you use. Make sure you take a look at the company you work for too. And for each and every item, ask yourself if you know what this company has been up to.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  2. Ken R

    I'm no particular fan of organized religion, but Chick-Fil-A makes great chicken! Everyone take a breath...

    February 8, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  3. Rudy a

    There is nothing christian about capitalism. I dont remember jesus being a CFO

    Sad day, when you consider that walmart displaces 1.4 jobs for every 1 person they employe.

    [vi]David Neumark (University of California-Irvine), Junfu Zhang (ClarkUniversity), and Stephen Ciccarella (Cornell University), "The Effects ofWal-Mart on Local Labor Markets," Jan. 2007

    February 8, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  4. JUSTLISTENING

    Boy, all this tongue lashing just because of Christianity????
    For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." What Jesus was condemning here was hypocritical, self-righteous judgments of others.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Joe

      You really like that plank argument, huh? We got the point the first time....did you have to repeat it over and over? Maybe next time mix up the selection of your metaphors a bit, hmm?

      February 8, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Raised Baptist

      Yeah, thanks for the timeworn talking point. Here is a proverb I just made up:

      "Those who claim the high road should learn how to walk it."

      February 8, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Magic

      JUSTLISTENING,

      Do you really think that Jesus was the first one to come up with a thought like that?

      Here's just one example which predates him:

      "He cannot be strict in judging, who does not wish others to be strict judges of himself." – Marcus T. Cicero (ca. 50 B.C.E.)

      February 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  5. Anne

    "Faithy" ?? Really? I certainly expect a higher level of writing from CNN than "faithy".

    February 8, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Joe

      it's typical of their writing. As a matter of fact, that style is very CNNy

      February 8, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  6. jeff

    i worked at tyson foods the might say there christians but they dont act like it they run people down if you get hurt than your on there bad side i had too have back surgery needless to say i got fired

    February 8, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  7. kso

    it really blows my mind how much how much Christians say they study the bible and are familiar with the lands, nations, and kingdoms that are described in the bible, yet they don't have a clue to what happened here on THIS CONTINENT prior to us arriving from Europe. Jesus the carpenter. hmmpf. where's all the stuff he carpentered!. yeah i used it as a verb. 😉

    February 8, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  8. Nobody Special

    Bummer. I used to like In-N-Out every now and then.

    But I cannot, in good conscience, support any organization that promotes intolerance or silly fairy tales.

    I guess I'll also be replacing all of my aeron chairs soon.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  9. Religious sects

    They'd use Satan's own fire & brimstone to cook their foods if they thought it would make a profit!

    February 8, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  10. GoHomePalin

    “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” Ghandi

    February 8, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  11. cfwe

    Good, now I know where NOT to shop and who not to support. I hate fundamentalists of all faiths. Their hypocrisy is ruining this country.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  12. Debbie

    It's very interesting to me that I already avoid several of these companies because of their business practices. Now you tell me they're good Christians. Does not surprise me much.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  13. Raised Baptist

    I'll take my chicken without a side of dogma, thank you very much.

    There are certain Christians who act like their faith is under attack. But when Christians decide to stop supporting political causes that infringe on the rights of other people, then we can all begin to get along. Until then people of other faiths and nonbelievers will be wary of giving them our money. Keep religion out of politics and business.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Religious sects

      We need to stop their dogma from p00ping on my const_tution.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  14. rudejohn

    Yeah, ServiceMaster's employees are created in the image of God. That's why they ripped me off for a year, claiming to have treated my lawn while I was at work when my elderly retired neighbor watched him pull into my driveway, get out of the truck, put the spreader on the ground, talk on his cell phone for three minutes while standing still in my driveway, then put the spreader back and leave. That'll be fifty bucks, thank you very much, pay soon because my crooked ripoff self is made in God's image.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  15. Believer78

    All faiths and non faiths have committed horrible atrocities using whatever their affiliated group is as an excuse. This is just evil being evil not an example of what each faith (or non faith) believes in. A true follower of Christ however is to love ALL (meaning those who agree with you and those who don't.) Playing the blame game and posting negative comments towards those you don't agree with is no way to show others the love of Christ. As for the article it's good to know that some companies are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in whether you agree with them or not. Our country could not be truly considered free if this were not allowed and fortunately for all of us there are still those who call upon this freedom instead of caving in to pressure to conform.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  16. Truth

    "One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord." Like it or not, Jesus died for humanity because we separated ourselves from God our creator. We are the ones who are sinners. We also have a choice to reconnect with God. Not all will. God will not force us to. He wants us to love Him out of choice. Honestly, we are all full of sin, even christians. We all deserve to spend eternity away from God. The point has never been and will never be how I can be good on my own. The point is will I allow the righteousness of Jesus Christ to take the place of my own sinfulness. This is not judgment, this is an invitation to join something much greater than we can comprehend. Not all will.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • kso

      you live in a bubble.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • americanno

      I find it hard to love a mythical figure that has inspired a cult of violence, bigotry, and molestation.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Truth

      I live through experience. You can call it whatever you would like, but its truth. I challenge you to seek truth. If you say you are so open minded, then ask, " God if you are real, then somehow let me know!" I am afraid that too many have closed their mind to God without giving Him a chance. Many things have been done in the name of Jesus that are wrong. Satan has used people who call themselves Christians to drag the name of Christ through the mud so people like you will be angry with God instead of turn to Him. Once again, give God once chance to prove Himself to you or do you really even want to know the truth?

      February 8, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Truth

      Why all the anger with Jesus? Look at who He was and is and then decide for yourself. Do not base what you believe on the actions of sinful people.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Earthling

      If you had no prior knowledge of Christianity, and someone came to you and told you they had just had a conversation with a burning bush, or that a talking snake had told them something about an apple tree, or that a magic man in the sky wanted you to kill your son, you'd have them committed. Why do you believe this sort of nonsense when you see it in a book that's been rewritten dozens and dozens of times (being rewritten yet again in Texas because it's too liberal), claiming to reliably report events seen by uneduacated bronze age sheep herders? You stopped believing in the tooth fairy and the easter bunny and santa claus when you noticed their potential existence was inconsistant with reality, right? Why do you persist in believing any other brand of obvious nonsense? Humans are perfectly capable of living morally upright lives without being frightened into it by the imagined eternal revenge of some nonexistant bogeyman in the sky. Join the rest of us in the 21st century, and deal with life in person.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Anglican

      Earthling. Earth, go ahead and place your faith where you choose. You seem very sure of yourself. Peace

      February 8, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • jon

      Hi Truth. It's very hip to claim that you're seeking the truth, or are on a life journey looking for truth. But the moment you claim to know what the truth is, your enemies attack you everything they've got. God bless you.

      KSO, you're totally right. Faith in Christ is a bubble beyond all understanding.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  17. Religious sects

    Morals and ethics are Human values . I'd sooo much rather hear about a company running their business on the human values of morality and ethics rather than religious values.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Joshua M

      You would think if a company was religious they would have morals and values. Tyson does not. I have been to too many classes, seen too many videos, articles etc and I know they are sick. Like Im sure so many companies are. I know Walmart is no white sheep either. Just because the guy who OWNS the company is religious doenst mean the managers and supervisors who actually are the company are religious or care. This article is dumb. Thanks CNN

      February 8, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  18. mi17mtp

    No one says you have to buy their stuff or shop at their stores. Get over it.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • JH

      Absolutely true! No one said we had to shop at these places or buy these products! What a brilliant observation. Additionally, no one said we couldn't choose to use our "god-given" rights as American citizens and consumers and be activist protesters and enthusiastic boycotters, voting not just with our dollars but with our mouths, pens, and computers, Millions of shoppers and consumers don't actually know how religiously activist these companies are. So guess what? All of us who think religion and business (which leads directly to religion and government these days) is a really, really bad idea have a voice *beyond* just not shopping there. Get over it.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  19. jon

    Lots of comments against "christianity" and "religion." As a relatively new christian, I think I can say that you might be barking up the wrong tree. You might be basing your opinion on Man's brokenness and imperfect practice of faith. If you'd take the time to read and study the source (i.e. the Bible) and the Lord Jesus Christ, it would blow your mind to know exactly what he was telling us.

    In the unlikely event that Tyson is reading this, I have a comment: Genesis tells us that we are to be stewards of His creation. We were given that gift AND responsibility. So please tell me whay you are supporting the horrible and unnatural practice of chicken farming where chickens are artificially made to grow so quickly, their bones and tendons cannot keep up with the rate of growth. They can only take a few steps before they must stop and sit. Their bones are rubbery, they never see the daylight. I think you, as a company, could still make your profits (and God bless you for it) but do it the way we were supposed to.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Debbie

      Tyson is a terrible steward precisely because Tyson is following the teachings of the Bible as most Christians know it.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Scott B

      You went and killed your own argument without even realizing it. Tyson, like most companies and people today, are "Convenient Christians", using the word of God only when it suits their needs. This is why I am so sick of everything "Christian" about this country today. What I wouldn't give to go back to the good ole days, back before the right and Christian fundies got in bed together, when most of us were content to "pray in our closets".

      February 8, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • saganhill

      I have read that "fairy tale" called the bible and it's just that, a fairy tale. Faith is NOT fact.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • blob of goo

      debbie please tell me how tyson is christian? from the article it seem to be okay with having a chaplain not using christian ethics. please learn to read or back up your point.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Steve

      The bible was written by people, as was every other religious book claiming to be the "word of god". What amuses me is the way people indoctrinated into whatever brand of religion will consistently quote and refer to passages in the text their religion sells as though it's important and conclusive. It isn't and it's one of the reasons non-believers have a difficult time taking religious people seriously on an intellectual level.

      Thanks for the list of companies to avoid.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Anglican

      Steve. So because I am a member of the faithful, I am not intelligent?

      February 8, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • jon

      Tyson, like most companies and people today, are "Convenient Christians", using the word of God only when it suits their needs. This is why I am so sick of everything "Christian" about this country today. What I wouldn't give to go back to the good ole days, back before the right and Christian fundies got in bed together, when most of us were content to "pray in our closets".

      Scott B, you are exactly right, and you're saying essentially what Christ told us to do: Pray to the Father with your door closed so as to not put on a "show" for others. It's tricky thing when sites like CNN publish an article about this for millions to read. It's extremely difficult to look at Christians today and not judge the faith. But you can't. It's the same as watching the Black Eyed Peas ridiculous performance at the super bowl and coming to the conclusion that all music is garbage.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Ben

      Jon, I support you in your faith. There are many distractions the world has to offer. and, I certianly do not condone wrong doing of a company or a an individual. But, in the end, when we stand before our creator, we will not have to answer for what kind of chicken we purchased, nor will any other measure of good works justify us before a holy God. The question will be "Who did you say and believe Jesus is?" if you believe he died for your sins and was raised form the dead, you begin a relationship with God the Father, otherwise you don't know him at all.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • jon

      I have read that "fairy tale" called the bible and it's just that, a fairy tale. Faith is NOT fact.

      saganhill. are you sure? how did you arrive at that conclusion? you seem to have pretty strong faith yourself. is this a fact? Christ's love for you didn't go away because you're denying Him.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • jon

      Hi Ben. I hear you. That is the imprtant thing isn't it? I don't mean to make stewarship the main issue. But my wife recently read "Eating Animals" by Foer, so this a topic that's been swimming around to ol' coconut from time to time.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  20. Steve

    Dan Gilgoff!

    Greetings from New Tripoli!

    February 8, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Qmann

      Yea...right! Servicemaster likes to preach but they do not practice. Employees have to work on the sabbath as well as on Christmas and Easter...decide for your self! (I am talking about the Terminix Company, part of the Service Master company,

      February 8, 2011 at 10:07 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.